Eric Williamson has sung opera worldwide, gospel in New York City and backup for singers of every genre. Yet he discovered his true calling as Conductor and Director of School Outreach for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

“I needed to share music so that young people would know what’s accessible.”

Williamson had the smarts and technical skills to help kids navigate musical notation and blend. Communicating his own artistic sense of joy and discovery proved harder.

Eric Williamson

Eric Williamson (M.A. ’19) (Photo Credit: Radhika Chalasani) 

At TC, Williamson learned how children understand music at different developmental stages. “By reconnecting me with early childhood musical experiences, Lori Custodero and Patricia St. John reframed my philosophy in teaching children as young as two to be artists.”

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In particular, Williamson learned that empowering young people to create music they find relevant inspires their broader musical curiosity. At the Teachers College Community School in West Harlem, his students performed hip hop and rap as well as classical music and standards. Fourth graders borrowed from a hit by Bruno Mars to pay tribute to a favorite teacher.

The takeaway, though simple, has in essence inspired composers for centuries: “Kids change the music they like in a meaningful way.”